In musical events, the cavernous acoustics of the National Gallery's East Garden Court can be extremely beneficial or just plain tiresome. Both traits were in evidence last night for soprano Doris Manville's engaging recital, and it is something of a testament to her talents that she was ultimately able to keep the latter from negating the former.
Hers is a bright and powerful voice that could not help but reach a stentorian level more often than necessary, which weakened the first half of the program. Many of the subtleties in a quintet of Schubert songs, for example, were simply washed away in a blaze of sound, but who could complain when that sound was so often thrilling?
Manville's impeccable intonation, her crystalline delivery of the highest notes, her stylish way with a phrase never failed to impress. If the delicacy of "Auf dem Wasser" did not quite have a chance, her handling of the sweeping lines in "Am Grabe Amselmos" was irresistible.
In the second half, Manville found her mezza voce and proceeded to make the most of it. Poulenc's "Metamorphoses," particularly the all-too-brief "C'est ainsi," were enchantingly delivered. Even more telling were five of Richard Strauss' finest songs, in which her holding back in crucial passages enabled those exciting fortissimos to take on much greater significance.